As a total newbie to traveling I feel like a fraud writing this blog, but I wanted to share what I have learned on our adventure. If you are a frequent traveler out of your own country, STOP READING NOW. I will bore you to death. If you are new to traveling out of your own country this might be of interest. At least you will get a chuckle out of what we learned the hard way.
We have traveled a fair bit in the USA and into Mexico, but we just got passports for this, our very first adventure out of the country. We picked a beautiful spot, but this is not some package deal pre-planned trip. We are here and figuring it out as we go. Here are a few of the odd things I have learned about this little slice of heaven.
1. Costa Rica doesn’t name streets in small cities like Tamarindo, they name buildings. Make sure you can correctly pronounce the name of the place you are staying and can describe how to get where you are going, and that you know a few simple words in case you get a taxi driver who does not speak English.
It could be that possibly we learned this all the hard way. There is a difference between Boca Raca’ and Boca Roca. Our cab driver got yelled at because we were so lost.
2. Be prepared for night when visiting. Street lights are a premium and roads are not paved generally. Sidewalks are sketchy or nonexistent. Bring a flashlight. Bring a pair of tennis shoes for night walking. It is worth it to be prepared because there are some really great things to see at night.
3. Time is not as important here as it is at home. Make sure you arrange for your ride early enough that if they are on beach time you can still make your flight. The rest of the time, chill out. A meal is going to take a long time. The grocery store takes a long time.
4. They either have what you are looking for at the grocery or they don’t. The supermarket here is more like a city stop and shop or 7-11. If you have a certain brand you cannot live without, bring it. Sunscreen, toothpaste, shampoo, pain reliever are in the stores, but not US brands.
5. Water is not served at meals, you have to buy it. Buy a big bottle for your table and share. Drink lots of water. Just get it in bottles.
6. Few places are air conditioned. Just be prepared for the heat. Dress cool, and know you are probably going to eat meals in open air locations. It really is fun and the food is good. Sometimes it is breathtakingly beautiful.
7. The price on everything is negotiable. Even posted prices for excursions are negotiable. As long as you are willing to walk away you will get a better deal. The shop in the photo below has posted prices for excursions. We did not pay those prices for anything.
8. Check into renting a condo rather than a hotel room. The cost is comparable to hotels, there is more space and often offers amenities such a pool, parking space, and 24 hour security. This is the beauty we stayed in. If you are interested in this condo, send me a message.
9. Change your US money into colons, the national currency. Right now the dollar is strong and you get a better deal. If you have US money have small bills. Come with 1’s, 5’s, 10’s. Most places will take US money, but they will probably give you change in colons. And you will get short changed.
10. Bring Cipro and Pepto Bismol. Lesson learned. I promise, I did not drink the water and I was pretty careful about the food I ate but I sure picked up a bug that almost landed me in the hospital for dehydration. And I missed the tour of the vlocano which included seeing some awesome animals that Hubby photographed for me. The doctor said if I had taken Cipro at the first sign of illness I would have been better quickly. Call your doctor before leaving and let them know you are leaving the country.
11. Bonus tip. Have fun, talk with strangers, meet new people. We met people from Canada, England, Germany, Belgium, and France. Everyone is tired of winter in case you are wondering. Pura Vida is a common saying in Costa Rica, it means Pure Life literally translated but it really means the Costa Rican way. I wish you all Pura Vida.